Fraternity Bacon...or...What Causes Cancer in Greek Life?

Thanks World Health Organization for taking the fun out of bacon.  Now, every time I bite into my BLT, I’m going to hear the sounds of tumors forming instantly inside my body. 

Bacon can cause cancer, according to the WHO.  And they’ve added it to their long list of carcinogens – a list meant to make us paranoid about doing anything other than sitting in a padded bunker eating pieces of lettuce.

But hey – good news!  Fraternity is not on the list!  Yet.

While this is a no-fun list by the WHO, it is actually quite helpful.  The list isn’t saying that these things will always cause cancer, but could.  Pickled vegetables, leather dust, and coffee are also on the list.  So, if you’re trying to preserve your body for a long life, the list is a helpful guide of things to avoid or take in moderation.

Although when it comes to leather dust, go big or go home I say.

Greek life needs a list like this.  Maybe this could be the next project of AFA or AFLV or NIC 2.0:  create an annual listing of things that cause cancer in the fraternity movement.  It could be a list that is added to or subtracted from based on new data that’s acquired.

This list would be a guide for fraternities and sororities that want a sustainable future, as well as a guide for professionals who work with Greek life to detect warning signs of impending doom

Now – you and I could probably create this list based on conventional wisdom about what ails the fraternity/sorority movement.  Such a list might look like this:

Fraternity/Sorority Carcinogens
1. Hazing
2. Passive recruitment
3. Parties with alcohol
4. Theme parties that degrade women or minorities
5. Chapter houses

But instead of guessing or relying on conventional wisdom, it’s time for some individual or organization to lead a meaningful research effort into what inspires fraternity excellence or diminishes it. 

Something only ends up on the WHO list if science has proven it deserves to be there.  It’s time we got scientific about the fundamental causes of poor health in Greek life.

PhD and Masters students – here is a chance for you to do essential research that can make a real difference .  Here are three research questions, that together or separate, could help make a data-driven list of behaviors that jeopardize fraternity/sorority sustainability and that could inform our future practices:

  1. What are the most common detectable predictors (warning signs) for a fraternity/sorority that will have its charter revoked within the next 12-24 months?  (study chapters that had their charter revoked and look for themes that were present 1-2 years earlier)
  2. What are the common denominators for all fraternity/sorority chapters that have been suspended or closed due to a tragic event in the past ten years? (perhaps compare those with the habits in common of chapters that have won their national fraternity’s top award in the last ten years)
  3. What are the common themes in the experience of fraternity/sorority chapters that are closed or reorganized within five years of being chartered?
The research from these three studies could provide the data needed to finally understand what causes a Greek organizations to fade, decline, or disintegrate altogether.  Armed with this knowledge, we can see warning signs before they become horrid front-page stories.  And, we can make smarter choices within the fraternity experience. 

Maybe we'll still eat bacon every once in a while - but we'll understand it can't be the biggest part of our diet.

With over 200 years of history, the fraternal movement ought to know what it's greatest carcinogens are.  We ought to have definitive answers on the things that give our organizations "cancer."  It doesn't mean we'll always listen - but not knowing can no longer be an excuse.



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